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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Top Stories of 2023: William & Mary Helping to Find a Home for a Resident’s Historic Documents

Doris Killion and Jay Gaidmore from William & Mary. (Photo/Rachael Carter)

Editor’s Note — As part of our countdown to 2024, WYDaily is revisiting its most-read and favorite stories of the year. Reporter Jillian Appel grew up going to antique auctions and estate sales, so she wasn’t new to historic artifacts. Seeing some of that history being preserved and learning more about how other locals could preserve parts of their family history like Mrs. Killion was something she found “really cool.” 

WILLIAMSBURG — Many people’s stories are lost to time due to the loss of historical documentation. One woman is making sure that isn’t the case for her family.

Williamsburg resident Doris Killion is donating a part of her family history to a historical archive with the help of Jay Gaidmore, Director of William & Mary’s Swem Library.

The document is over 300 years old and was written under the reign of King George III in 1769. It is a land indenture, transferring property in the town of Hurley from Charles DeWitt of Hurley to John D. Wynkoop of Kingston. Both are located in Ulster County, New York.

Previously, she had donated a map to William & Mary.

Initially, she approached Resident Programming Director Sharon Springer at Brookdale Chambrel Williamsburg, the senior living facility in James City County where she resides, asking if she had a recommendation on who might be interested in the documents.

“Mrs. Killion just came to me one day and stopped by my office and she told me about the document that she had, the map, and wanted to know if I knew anyone who would be interested because she had given her children similar documents and she had one of her own so she wanted to make sure that it was put in the right hands to be preserved,” explained Springer.

Killion and Gaidmore looking over the historic map. (Photo/Rachael Carter)

Springer proceeded to put Killion in contact with Gaidmore, and at their first meeting, Killion donated a historic map to the Swem Library. The map outlined the Battle of Harlem Heights, with the battle lines marked on the map.

Syracuse University, where other DeWitt family papers are archived and the New York State Archives are housed, has been contacted to consider the document — signed by King George III — for its collection. The Ulster Historical Society, where Charles DeWitt lived, has also been contacted. William & Mary said it will also gladly accept the document if neither location is interested.

“[This document] would be of interest to anyone who is interested in early American history, colonial history. Legal historians could be interested with the language they use for the indentures. It mentions the different boundaries and so forth, so you have different surveyors who might be interested as well. And, of course, anyone who is interested in King George III,” Gaidmore said.

The documents Killion is currently looking to find a home for were given to her as a wedding present. She decided to donate them in order to preserve history.

Gaidmore looking over the document. (Photo/Rachael Carter)

“We want things preserved,” Killion said before adding with a smile and laugh, “We don’t want the children to take them to Goodwill.”

Gaidmore said it’s quite common for William & Mary to receive calls from people wanting to donate pieces of their family history.

He recalls receiving a phone call from a grandson who was thankful that his family’s letters had been preserved, as they identified the picture of an unknown man on his grandmother’s bureau next to his grandfather’s.

“I think [a love of family history] has come with age,” Killion said.

Currently, Killion’s document is in the process of being digitized and where it will be stored has yet to be determined.

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